When captains of commercial vessels near inland waters, they surrender control of their ships to pilots who are trained in the changing conditions of their local waters.
Here is a map of the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay, and the man-made link between the two, the C & D Canal.
Now, there are pilots who operate in the Chesapeake Bay, and pilots who operate in the Delaware Bay. None operate in both.
So what happens when a ship jumps bays by traveling the canal?
That's where this little boat comes in (and it's sister).
As ships approach the town of Chesapeake City on the canal, pilots jump into these boats, which come up alongside. The outgoing pilot climbs down a long, long rope ladder to the waiting boat below, and the incoming pilot climbs up to relieve him or her.
It's a switch. Chesapeake for Delaware, or Delaware for Chesapeake, depending on the direction.
We had lunch along the water this weekend and watched for ships dwarfing the canal. But the pilot mooring stayed silent. And the little red boats slept in the sun.